Multiple social media posts shared thousands of times have falsely claimed that Asle Toje, vice-chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, named Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the "biggest contender" for the Nobel Peace Prize. The claim was quickly amplified by several Indian media outlets. However, the Norwegian Nobel Institute told AFP that Toje was misquoted, adding that the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for the prize, never comments on or confirms who has been nominated for it. As of March 21, 2023, Toje has not publicly made any such statement about Modi.
"PM Narendra Modi is the biggest contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is continuously working for World peace and also has the ability to restore the World-Peace order. Deputy leader of Nobel Prize Committee," reads the post shared on Twitter here on March 15, 2023.
The post featuring an image of Asle Toje, vice-chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, was reshared more than 6,600 times.
Screenshot of the false post taken on March 20, 2023.
A similar false claim was also shared in Facebook posts here and here, and on Twitter here and here.
It was soon reported by Indian media organisations including Panchjanya, which later deleted its Hindi-language tweet, and OpIndia, which subsequently updated its article to clarify that Toje had dismissed the claim as false.
The Norwegian Nobel Institute in Norway told AFP that Toje had been "misquoted" in the reports.
In a statement, it said: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee never confirms or comments upon who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The names of the nominees are only released after 50 years."
The Nobel Peace Prize selection criteria are outlined here on the institute's website.
AFP reported that those eligible to nominate people for the prize — including former laureates, lawmakers and cabinet ministers from any country in the world, and some university professors — are free to reveal the name of the person or organisation they have proposed.
Most of the names that have been publicly disclosed so far are involved in the nearly year-long conflict that has been raging in Ukraine, or opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Misrepresented commentsThe false claim was shared online after Toje spoke as part of a panel organised by the India Centre Foundation in Delhi on March 14, 2023. It was titled the "Alternative Development Model & Peace".
In a video posted on the forum’s official YouTube channel, Toje can be seen giving a speech at the 40-minute and seven-second mark.
He refers to Alfred Nobel before describing India’s contribution to global politics and peace. Nowhere in his speech does he suggest Modi is a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He instead says: "For me, coming to India is a learning experience. I come to India to learn, to learn about the peace traditions of the country, and to learn from the energy that determines a country on this rise.
"India is on the move. India is a country that is becoming increasingly important in world politics. It's a country that now must decide what sort of great power it wants to be."
Shortly after the false posts began to circulate online, Toje spoke to Hindi TV ABP News and was asked about Modi's response to the Russia-Ukraine war.
At the video's three-minute and 45-second mark, the reporter asks him: "Is Modi capable of stopping this Russia-Ukraine war by his leadership?"
Toje replies: "You're asking whether (Modi) is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The thing is I have the same answer to anybody. My answer is that I hope that every leader of every nation will be inspired to do the work that is necessary to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope that for President Modi," he said, incorrectly referring to the Indian leader's title, which is Prime Minister.
"Obviously I am following his efforts -- we all are -- and I really hope that his initiatives will come to fruition," Toje said.